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What matters most to air travelers
Examining Western European attitudes toward low-cost carriers
When it comes to Low-Cost Carriers (LCCs) in Europe, price and legroom matter more than just about anything else.
That was the takeaway from a recent Expedia study to examine Western European attitudes toward LCCs. The study, dubbed the Expedia 2014 LCC Airline Index, was conducted on Expedia’s behalf by Northstar. Results of the study were released today.
Generally speaking, LCCs represent a surging sector of the aviation industry. Airlines in this niche typically feature a single aircraft type, high utilization, low fares, and limited perks compared to traditional airlines. Two of the most popular LCCs in Europe are EasyJet and Ryanair.
To gain a better understanding of what people love—and dislike—about LCCs, the Expedia 2014 LCC Airline Index asked 1,500 adults in the U.K., Germany, France, Ireland and Spain to report on that tradeoff between fares and frills. Data from the study indicates that the No. 1 reason for LCC success in Europe is low cost—36 percent of study respondents cited it as their prevailing concern. Other reasons respondents said they opted for LCCs included airport locations (24 percent) and flight times (16 percent.)
The Expedia 2014 LCC Airline Index asked Western European travelers which features they would be willing to sacrifice in order to save money. “In-flight entertainment” was first to go, as 65 percent of respondents picked that. The list also included pillows and blankets (63 percent), snacks and beverages (51 percent) and the ability to choose seats in advance (45 percent).
Free checked luggage (17 percent) and legroom (16 percent) were the features respondents said they would be least likely to give up.
(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this is why we’ve deduced that legroom and cheap fares are most important to travelers in that region.)
Viewfinder Tip: If you’re seeking cheap fares and standard legroom, consider booking your next trip (at least in Western Europe) on a low-cost carrier.
The Expedia 2014 LCC Airline Index also revealed that 81 percent of Western Europeans expect to receive “much or somewhat better” customer service when flying with a traditional carrier versus an LCC. An additional 77 percent of respondents reported that they are willing to accept worse customer service in exchange for a cheaper seat.
The Expedia 2014 LCC Index asked respondents which trips would be most appropriate for an LCC flight. Weekend trips were most popular (at 78 percent of respondents); honeymoons the least (11 percent).
Finally, 45 percent of Western European respondents said they consider an LCC for a flight time of up to three hours and for some it’s much shorter, with 13 percent saying they consider an LCC for flights up to 1.5 hours. For flights approaching five hours, that figure drops to 23 percent, and tumbles thereafter. Only 3 percent of study respondents would fly an LCC for flights up to eight hours long. Also, younger flyers expressed more willingness to fly longer on an LCC, with 42 percent of under-35 flyers willing to fly more than three hours, versus 24 percent among those 55 and older.
Context for this report is important, as LCCs are booming in popularity right now. EasyJet and Ryanair are the two most popular LCCs serving Western Europe, and 71 percent of Western European study respondents report having flown on an LCC in the past two years.
The CAPA Centre for Aviation reports that between 2000 and 2012, approximately 130 LCCs were launched, with 70 percent still in operation. According to Morgan Stanley, LCC European market share has grown to almost 40 percent in June 2014 from approximately 14 percent in 2003. Expedia’s own data show that LCC business has nearly doubled over the last five years, growing by more than 90 percent from 2009 to 2013 on Expedia sites worldwide.
Have you flown an LCC in Western Europe? If so, what was your experience like? Tell us in the comment field below. And for more information about the Expedia 2014 LCC Airline Index, check out our official press release later this week.
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